US accuses China of wanting to help Putin in Ukraine war


The US has informed allies in Europe and Asia that China has signaled that it wants to give Russia economic and military support during the war in Ukraine. The information was leaked anonymously to journalists in Washington, a common tactic.

The American warning would have come through diplomatic cables this Monday (14), before a meeting of American and Chinese diplomatic delegations in Rome. In it, Joe Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan warned Chinese Yang Jiechi about the risk of supporting Vladimir Putin.

The leak follows another, made to The New York Times on Sunday, according to which Russia had asked the Chinese for help. On Monday, Beijing and Moscow denied the hypothesis. For the Kremlin, Russia is fully capable of achieving its goals in the neighboring country. The Chinese Foreign Ministry accused Washington of trying to create intrigues with “sinister objectives”.

It is not possible to know the degree of veracity of the information. That there is a Chinese willingness to economically assist Vladimir Putin, whose government is under the toughest economic sanctions in modern history, does not seem impossible — quite the opposite.

But so far the dictatorship led by Xi Jinping has handled the crisis in Ukraine with extreme caution. He has not condemned the ally’s war, but has insisted on a negotiated and peaceful solution, placing himself as a possible mediator. This is tone modulation.

In December, when the West already saw the risk of invasion as Putin concentrated troops around his neighbour, Xi told Putin in a video conference that the two countries had to ally to react jointly against pressure from the West, the generic name for the club led by the United States. USA and which includes eastern countries such as Japan and Australia.

On February 4, 20 days before the war began, Putin made his first international trip after the coronavirus pandemic and attended the opening of the Beijing Winter Games. He signed a declaration of “eternal friendship” with Xi, ratifying his entry as China’s partner in the so-called Cold War 2.0 experienced by the world’s second largest economy against the first, the US.

While careful analysis of the terms showed that it was not a military alliance, and in fact a piece that served more to Chinese interests, the perception that Xi could come to Putin’s financial aid has been on the Western agenda since the beginning of the war.

On Sunday, before the meeting in Rome, Sullivan had already said that Beijing would risk “severe consequences” if China helped Moscow break the blockade on sanctions.

If the economic question suggests that the partnership can be put to the test, the military one is not so clear. As Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, it seems clear that Russia is able to maintain its current war effort. As much as there are reported difficulties on the ground in Ukraine, there is little logic in thinking that the Russians need some sort of input right now.

Of course, discounting here is the possibility of an expanded war with other NATO members that would lead China to have to take the side of the ally, even out of exclusion and due to previous experience in military coordination, in its strategic backyard in the Indo-Pacific. But then the theme is world war.

Not casually, the US and its Quad allies (Japan, Australia and India), a group created to contain Chinese assertiveness in that region, have already warned that Beijing should not think that Taiwan would be a new Ukraine, in reference to military activity. around the autonomous island that the dictatorship considers its own.

In this scenario, Chinese caution has to do with the fact that it has much more to lose if faced with a draconian sanctions regime than Moscow. The reverse logic is the same: interdependence with the West has made China a central part of global production chains. Hence, American pressure can be just that, pressure.

In the end, Beijing can still profit a lot from a politically weaker Russia dependent on itself for survival, opening up the vast oil and gas reserves that now supply Europe to the East, which also helps to understand Xi’s discretion so far. .

What unfolds is a drama of planetary proportions, with a likely effect on Beijing’s relations with the rest of the world going forward, regardless of the outcome of the war in Ukraine.

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